5 Things to Know About Shanghai

 

The longest-running film festival in the Chinese mainland, the Shanghai International Film Festival is facing stiff competition from the two-year-old Beijing fest, which stole some of SIFF's thunder last year when it moved from fall to April. Shanghai organizers have responded with a distinctly international program for the 15th edition of the festival, which will highlight Shanghai's cultural advantages. With the Chinese media market continuing to open up, the event is well positioned to become a key link between East and West thanks to its emphasis on international programming and its burgeoning market, SIFF Mart. Challenges remain -- gala premieres from Hollywood are scarce, meaning Western star power is still minimal -- but for anyone looking to crack the Chinese market (and who isn't?), SIFF is a good place to start.

SHANGHAI INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

  • WHEN: June 16-24
  • WHERE: Shanghai Grand Theatre

The Jury Is In

French auteur Jean-Jacques Annaud (Black Gold) will lead a distinctly international competition jury including Iranian director Rakhshan Bani-E'temad (Nargess), American actress Heather Graham (The Hangover) and Hungarian helmer Bela Tarr (The Turin Horse). Annaud was chosen because of his international pedigree. "He is one of the few filmmakers to work across cultures," says SIFF managing director Tang Lijun. "As a multicultural film festival, SIFF pays a great deal of attention to the relationship between Chinese films and the world. We hope Annaud will share his experience with the Chinese film industry."

The Stars Come Out

In addition to local celebrities like Jackie Chan, Chow Yun-Fat and Fan Bingbing, American actor Aaron Eckhart will make an appearance at SIFF. Why Eckhart, who has no film to promote at the fest? Look no further than The Dark Knight, a massive hit in China. "Our audience expressed their wishes to meet Mr. Eckhart in person," says Tang.

Don't Expect Hollywood Premieres

SIFF will screen a number of Hollywood titles, but it's hard to generate buzz with well-traveled fare like Cowboys & Aliens and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Observers say enticing talent to attend is SIFF's biggest challenge from Beijing. "Why would they when they've done a big show already, just two months ago?" asks one insider.

Everyone Wants Chinese Co-productions

One of the more curious international co-prods screening at SIFF is Meet in Pyongyang, a joint venture between China and North Korea. Billed as a "celebration of the friendship between the two countries," the scripted drama, which screens out of competition, was originally scheduled for a May 22 premiere in Pyongyang, but that was canceled after the North Korean government captured a Chinese fisherman, who has since been released. The film's screening should help bolster the two nations' tenuous "friendship."

New Talent Will Emerge

Ten projects from across Asia are in the running for the Asian New Talent Award, to be chosen by a jury headed by Iranian filmmaker Amir Naderi. Cash prizes of $25,000 are given for the best director and best film awards. Previous winners include Ning Hao, who won the audience award in 2006 for Crazy Stone, which eventually earned more than $3.6 million at the local box office despite a budget of $400,000.

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